Third and final post for this week’s book reviews. Come back next week to get the remaining two books and the series review. Without further ado…
Customary warning: This is a reminder that these are my personal opinions. My thoughts and feelings are not your thoughts and feelings. I may not always be the target audience for a book; sometimes I am. If I do not like a book, that doesn’t mean you’ll dislike it. If I love a book or simply like a book, you may hate it. Take everything I say with this knowledge. If it sounds interesting to you despite what I’ve said, then go ahead and read it. You’ll only know you like something if you read it yourself.
That being said… Spoilers ahead.
Son of a Witch by Gregory Maguire
Synopsis From The Book
Ten years after the publication of Wicked, beloved novelist Gregory Maguire returns at last to the land of Oz. There he introduces us to Liir, an adolescent boy last seen hiding in the shadows of the castle after Dorothy did in the Witch. Bruised, comatose, and left for dead in a gully, Liir is shattered in spirit as well as in form. But he is tended at the Cloister of Saint Glinda by the silent novice called Candle, who wills him back to life with her musical gifts.
What dark force left Liir in this condition? Is he really Elphaba’s son? He has her broom and her cape, but what of her powers? Can he find his supposed half-sister, Nor, last seen in the forbidding prison, Southstairs? Can he fulfill the last wishes of a dying princess? In an Oz that, since the Wizard’s departure, is under new and dangerous management, can Liir keep his head down long enough to grow up?
For the countless fans who have been dazzled and entranced by Maguire’s Oz, Son of a Witch is the rich reward they have awaited so long.
Initial Thoughts Before Reading:
I know the criticism for this book as less of a sequel and more as a love letter to the play. As such I have decided to separate the first book for now and make my own decisions after reading. I am excited for a second book in general, so I’m in a pretty good mood for this book. If it turns out to be a good sequel then the series review will probably be a very good one. (probably)
Initial Thoughts After Reading:
It was different than Wicked. Where as that book was filled with imagery and symbolism, this one was more of a normal fantasy novel. It was good, but the beginning did bore me (I really did not care for Candle). I did like the book and the way that Liir’s story was told though. Now I have a better idea of how the last two books will go.
The book is told in two time lines for the first half and then the second half is linear.
Liir is found naked, and near death with multiple injuries but no bleeding.
The women of Saint Glinda’s try to bring him back to life. Liir has multiple bone injuries and internal bleeding. Everyone assumes he won’t survive the night. He does, with the help of a girl named Candle who plays him music. They continue to help him and somehow he begins to get better.
Two Sisters of Saint Glinda meet with Princess Nastoya who demands to see Liir. Candle believes he is about to die, but when she tries to get him help, she is locked in the room with him and she tries to use CPR to keep him alive. She ends up sleeping with him. Candle flees with Liir to Apple Press Farm, and it is here that Liir wakes up.
Liir begins his story shortly after the events of Wicked. Liir travels with Dorothy and her companions to the Emerald City. Along the way he meets with Princess Nastoya and is forced into promising her to help her figure out a way to turn into an Elephant again. They make it to Emerald City and Dorothy is unable to keep her promise, leaving Liir alone.
Liir is convinced his half-sister Nor is in the Southstairs — the Emerald City’s high end prison. He goes to Glinda who takes him to Shell (Elphaba’s brother) who takes him the Under-Mayor Chyde. There he finds out that she escaped in the carcass of a beast and is gone. Liir leaves by broom, flying for the first time.
After being on the streets, Liir enlists as a soldier of the Home Guard (thanks to a boy named Trism) under the command of the soldier who took Nor and her family in the first place in Wicked. It is here that he meets Shell for a second time. Liir and his unit are sent to Quadling country, to find the Viceroy and his wife. After many years there, his unit and fellow soldiers have become lax and in order to put them in place again their commander gives them a mission.
They are to burn a city across the river, who didn’t pay their fine. Liir does this and sees many of the people burn or drown, trying to escape. He leaves the army and returns home. At home he finds Nanny and his mother’s monkeys still living there. The Princess of the Swans arrives about to die and asks Chistery to attend in her place at the Conference of Birds. Liir goes instead and is attacked by what killed the Princess of the Swans: dragons. He falls to the earth which is where we found him at the beginning.
Liir awakes to Candle and slowly recovers his strength. Once he is healed he goes to the Conference of Birds. Here he find out that the Birds, who were not fully hurt by the anti-Animal laws are now being hunted by the dragons. Liir is give the task to hunt and kill the dragons, and to get his broom back so he can be the Bird’s human embassador.
Liir returns to Apple Press Farm and finds out Candle is pregnant with his child, but doesn’t believe her. Liir goes to Emerald City to find out a way to kill the dragons and meets with Trism again. Trism is in charge of the dragons. Trism tells Liir that Shell has become the new Apostle Emperor of Oz. Trism tries to kill Liir, because of the fact that his dragons have been used for bad starting with Liir’s campaign in Quadling country. (After Liir burned the city, the Quadlings attacked his unit killing almost everyone and the dragons were sent to put them in their place.) The dragons have been sent around to ensure the Emperor’s position by keeping people in line and Trsim fears that if he retaliates his family will be killed. Liir convinces him to kill the dragons, and they poison their food (Liir taking the blame). They take his stollen cloak and broom, and flee.
Trism and Liir become lovers while on the run. The end up back at Saint Glinda’s where Glinda actually is staying for some time. The soldiers come to attack them there, but do not because of Glinda. Glinda escapes with Trism as Liir flies away back to the Birds.
With the Birds, Liir goes to Emerald City and flies over the city with the sign of the Witch. Liir returns to Apple Press Farm to find Candle alone and Trism not there. Trism was afraid the soldiers were going to come after him and he too flight again. Princess Natsoya has come to the farm and Liir thinks that Candle’s music can turn her back to an Elephant. It does and the princess dies.
Liir goes back to the Vinkus with Princess Natsoya’s group to return her home, and realizes that Nor’s handwriting is the writing that has been gratified all over Emerald City. Liir returns to Apple Press Farm to find Candle gone and only a baby, his baby, who is green.
What I Liked:
Liir; I really liked child Liir in Wicked, but young adult Liir was charming and lost. His story was a story of trying to find himself and for that I have a lot of respect. He’s complicated, but has his own morals, much like his mother. Now he also has a child he never wanted too.
Candle; As much as I didn’t like her, she wasn’t a bad character. I just didn’t care for her.
Trism; I liked him when I met him in the beginning and I liked him when we got him again at the end. I do wonder what happened to him. I hope he’s okay.
Liir’s Relationships; With Candle and Trism, are complicated in their own ways. Candle’s and his was based more on her saving him (and sleeping with him) and Trism’s was built on mutual need to use each other, and blame each other for things that happened in the past. All of Liir’s relationships in general are complicated, he’s not great with people.
Politics, History, Culture; This book lets these take a bit more of a back seat in the story, which is not horrible. There are new aspects about the politics and the state of the world that we learn in this world, but it did not feel as heavy before. I feel a lot of this is tied to Liir who is trying to understand himself, as he does we tend to get more.
Themes; The themes were less heavy handed in this book, but there were clear ones. Love/ to be Loved/ the forms of Love and Identity were the two major ones.
I really liked the formatting of Elphaba’s story, and so the back and forth between present and past for this tale was a bit different. I’m not sure it would have worked the same for Liir’s story, and I do think that the way this one is written did work.
What I Would Have Liked or Changed:
Happy endings all around. That would be lovely, but that’s not how book two of four book stories work, so I suppose I can’t expect it.
Time Taken To Read
2hrs 32 min
The second half was real good but the first bored me.
“Not everyone is born a witch or a saint. Not everyone is born talented, or crooked, or blessed; some are born definite in no particular at all. We are a fountain of shimmering contradictions, most of us. Beautiful in the concept, if we’re lucky, but frequently tedious or regrettable as we flesh ourselves out.” – pg 128
“Children surrender nothing when faced with the world: it is the world that gives up, over and over again. By so giving up, of course, it renews itself — that is the secret. Dying in order to live, that sort of thing.” – pg 129
“Everyone lives but us.” – pg 158
“It isn’t whether you do it well or ill, it’s that you do it all.” – pg 159
“Memory is part of the present. It builds us up inside; it knits our bones to our muscles and keeps our heart pumping. It is memory that reminds our bodies to work, and memory that reminds our spirits to work, too: it keeps us who we are.” – pg 211
“To grow a song, you must plant a note.” – pg 215
“Wisdom is not the understanding of mystery, she said to herself, not for the first time. Wisdom is accepting that mystery is beyond understanding. That’s what makes it mystery.” pg 274
“People sing of her. You wouldn’t guess it, being you — but they do. There’s a musical noise around her name; there are things people remember, and pass on.” – pg 283
“Forget us, forget us all, it makes no difference now, but don’t forget that we loved it when we were alive.” – pg 319